Brian May Special review by Brian May Guitars

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Features: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 10 Gem
  • Users' score: 8.8 (36 votes)
Brian May Guitars: Brian May Special

Price paid: £ 549

Purchased from: House Music London

Sound — 10
As I stated in the body of my review, the guitar fits my style(s) to a T. I have run it through my Fender Super Champ, my Mesa Trans-Atlantic, my Marshall Vintage Modern and my Eleven Rack/Pro Tools recording set-up. I have used a Treble Booster and an Eleven Rack, effects wise. The single coil pickups are reasonably quiet for what they are and using the phase switches appropriately eliminates the noise. Please see my comments in the body for the various tomes available.

Overall Impression — 10
Please see the body of the review. I currently own Fenders, Gibsons, Epiphones, Rickenbackers, Ibnezes, a Dean and a 12-string Danelectro. I have no regrets from my pre-purchase research and if this guitar went away, of course I would replace it. See the body of the review for my comments of what I hate/love. My favorite feature are the tones available from the stock pick-ups with the versatile switching system. I only compared this with an older, used Guild version vs. The Current Red Special. This guitar is in a class of it's own. There's really nothing else out there like it. I can't think if anything else that I wish it had.

Reliability & Durability — 10
The guitar is solidly built. It fell of the stand at the last gig and was still in tune with no damage as far as I can tell. As a matter of habit, I put a set of Dunlop strap locks on it, although the stock buttons were more than adequate. The finish appears to be quite durable. I've gigged long enough to know better than to go without a back-up. You never know what might happen in some of the places I've played. I'd have to bring at least two back-ups to cover the tonal range of this guitar. From a durability standpoint, however, I would not expect the guitar to fail.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
Set-up, fit and finish are essentially perfect. Again, see the body of my review. The bookmatching is flawless. The hardware is solid and clean. I have no idea what the factory set-up was like. The set-up that the guitar arrived with was done at House Music. That's one of the reasons why I bought it from them as opposed to a big box store. Nothing beats the quality of things like a well-executed set-up that an independent musical instrument seller can offer.

Features — 10
I recently purchased a 2010 Brian May Red Special guitar. I was fond of the Trans Green color and could not find one here in the States, so I contacted the distributor, House Music in London, and purchased one directly from them. The guitar is of Korean manufacture. Here are the specs. Specifications: > Mahogany body (with Acoustic chamber) with Pinstripe binding > New two-piece scratch plate > Mahogany neck > 24" scale (Depth: 22mm at 1st fret ... 24mm at 12th fret) > 24 fret - ebony fingerboard (width 45mm at 0 fret ... 57mm at 24th fret) > Grover GH305 locking tuners > Dual truss rod > Graphite nut > New bridge & Brass saddles > BM Custom tremolo arm > 3 x Burns Tri-Sonic pickups (series wired) > Master Volume & Tone controls > Original BM switching system > Individual pickup IN/OUT phase plus Individual pickup ON/OFF The finish is a transparent forest green. The instrument has white body binding and a black pickguard. The body shape is sort of an asymmetrical Les Paul DC, although larger than the Gibson model. It is chambered, well balanced and very comfortable to wear either sitting or standing. The guitar shipped with a cable, tool kit, a really nice gig bag and received a Stellar set-up prior to shipping. In fact, it arrived at my home still in tune and gig-ready right out of the box. The guitar has a zero nut and a wider neck than any Fender or Gibson that I have played and the neck thick enough to grab a hold of and really dig in with the fretting hand. Single note bends, arpeggios, double and triple stops and chording are a breeze. I would characterize the frets as of a Vintage style. The fret work was amazing...very comfortable with no sharp ends, rough or high spots. The nut was cut and filed to perfection. The tonal options are manifold. For reference, I played through my Fender Super Champ, my Mesa Trans-Atlantic, my Marshall Vintage Modern and my Eleven Rack/Pro Tools recording set-up. The entire gamut from Strat and Les Paul tones as well as something I can only describe as reminiscent of a Rick 360 are available. There are a few tones that I would characterize as peculiar to this model alone also. A few of the tones are on the dark side but still usable. But hey, there are so many to choose from, I believe most any guitar player, minimally, will find at least four or five to their liking. Very versatile. Just for giggles, I put a treble booster in the signal path and Wow! I can see why Mr. May uses one in his rig. The guitar doesn't need it, but it was like putting a blower on a small block Chevy engine. The Wilkinson bridge, graphite nut and the Grover locking tuners add up to a very stable non-locking trem system. In fact the stability is only beat by my Ibanez JS2400. The older Guild-made version of this guitar is a mere shadow in comparison. This guitar is a quality piece of workmanship and all for about $900 USD. I realize that this is more than buying it from someone like Musician's Friend, but realize that I had to pay to have this shipped and imported into the States; plus the instrument received a Stellar set-up prior to shipping. The vendor, House Music, is the worldwide distributor. They are also an independent shop and so there are little niceties (tangible and intangible) that I would never expect from a big box store. For me, the price difference is worth it. I'm a middle-aged old fart who has been playing for about 30 years. Stylistically, I play rock from the 50's to current, blues, blues-based rock, country, some jazz and metal/hard rock (mostly the older stuff from the 70's and 80's). I can do all of the above with this guitar. If EMG pickup equipped, drop tuning with gobs of gain is your forte, then get an ESP or a Dean. My criteria for any guitar is based on (in this order) how it sounds acoustically and amplified, how it plays/feels and is it aesthetically pleasing. The Brian May Red Special (and yes, I know mine is green...get yourself a red one if that is what makes it for you) is a Stellar instrument in all respects. I would put it as good if not better than what Fender, Gibson and PRS are putting out in the two to three thousand dollar range, plus it is more versatile than anything offered by the aforementioned three in the $2k-3k range. This will be my go-to guitar for recording and most gigs in the foreseeable future.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I just bought one used, for $500 Canadian (they sell for roughly $750 plus taxes... and shipping if not found locally). I have the Brian May version (not the Burns). It's s descent guitar... nothing like my customer Casper GT, but new it's half the price. It has some nice tonal features and is ideal for non-metal based music... it is not a gutsy guitar will all kinds of balls, but pretty solid in its tone and capabilities.